I don’t watch reality TV. In fact, I don’t really watch much TV at all (Food Network and Perry Mason reruns excepted, although now that we’ve downgraded our cable, I’ll be back to DVDs and Perry Mason exclusively). So when I heard that our fifth sandbox assignment was to place a main character from my novel in a reality TV show, I panicked. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT REALITY TV except what I haven’t been able to avoid hearing on the news about American Idol, and I REFUSE TO WRITE ABOUT AMERICAN IDOL! Besides, Elinor Poole is supposed to be from the 1940s! Seriously! Reality TV and World War II just didn’t seem to mix in my mind. Well, I did a little research, and to my delight I found a show (with which I’ve had a very little experience compared to no experience at all) which began in 1948! I never do “happy dances,” but I felt like doing one then. So what if it’s a six years later than the setting of my story? And in America-not-England? I’ll just send Ethan and Elinor with their son and baby-on-the-way on a family vacation to America!
Sure, it’s dorky, but hey? What do you expect? And sure, the prank is kinda lame, but hey? It works. Sorta. =) Oh, and one more thing…I’ve been gone all week, as in, we left on Tuesday and got home yesterday, so this assignment I whipped out just this afternoon ’cause I wanted it and hopefully at least part of Chapter 1 of my novel done before class tomorrow…so give me a little grace, ok? =)
“Would you like to get a bite to eat, or would you like to freshen up at the hotel first, darling?” Ethan’s homey British accent sounded particularly loud through the hum of jabbering American voices.
Elinor took a firmer grip on David’s small jacket sleeve. “I would much rather check in to a hotel, if you don’t mind. After that train ride, the baby and I could do with a bit of tea and a change of clothes before supper,” she said, laying one hand atop her dress where the newest member of the Hayne family was just beginning to make his presence public. Ethan nodded and swung David up onto his broad shoulders, preparatory to another plunge into the sea of moving people. He guided his expectant wife deftly through the swirling mass, over the bridge and through the glass doors of the hotel lobby.
“How may I help you?” asked the man at the front desk, glancing curiously at the young family as they walked in. Since Ethan had disappeared with David to engage a bellhop, Elinor went up to make arrangements for their stay.
“We would like a room for the week, if you please.”
“What is the name, miss?”
“Hayne, sir — H, A, Y, N, E,” Elinor replied, longing for a bath and a cup of hot tea.
“I’m afraid we can’t do that, miss,” drawled the receptionist, flashing an irritating smile.
“Why…are the rooms all filled?” Her heart sank with the thought of another tramp through the crowded streets. It had been a long day and both Elinor and baby Hayne looked forward to a quiet place to sit.
“No ma’am, not filled exactly…but you see, you’ve five letters in your last name.”
“What has that to do with anything, sir?”
“We can only let you have rooms five or fifty-five if you have five letters in your name and both of those rooms are filled.”
“I still don’t see what that has to do with it. Couldn’t we get a different room — one that isn’t being used?”
“Afraid not, miss,” he replied with one of his infuriating grins. “Company policy. If you have five letters in your name, you must have either room five or room fifty-five, and those are filled. If you like to use a first name, we may be able to help.”
“Well…I…this is ridiculous! Do you like ‘Elinor’ better, perhaps?”
“How is it spelled?”
“E, L, I, N, O, R.”
“Six letters, huh? I’m really very sorry, but rooms six and sixty-six are taken also.” He smirked at her consternation.
“You…I…this makes absolutely no sense at all. Are there no other rooms available?” Elinor felt ready to cry. Ethan was nowhere in sight and she began to wonder if she could keep her high-heels on much longer.
“Yes, miss…rooms four, seven, twelve through seventeen, twenty-three through twenty-nine, and forty through fifty four are available. Does your husband have four or seven letters in his name?”
“No…” she replied, faintly, with the vague impression that this was all some strange and frustrating dream. “He has five, and so does my son. Sir, please, we are very tired…couldn’t you make an exception for us? Even just for tonight…just for one night?”
“Afraid not, miss. Company policy, you know.”
If Ethan had not come up at that exact moment, Elinor would have broken down and cried with frustration and confusion.
“Have you got a roo…why, darling, what is the matter?” Ethan helped David down from his shoulder and led him up to the desk where Elinor stood.
“Well, I…no, I haven’t got a room…that is…he says that if we had seven letters…company policy…” Suddenly, the absurdity of the whole dilemma, combined with the utter bewilderment on her husband’s face struck Elinor as hilariously funny. Between bursts of hysterical, tearful laughter, she managed to muddle Ethan’s impression of the situation even farther. “Ask…ask the receptionist…something about…letters in our name…we’ve got five…he said…if we had…seven letters…or four…
Ethan stood and stared at his wife laughing and crying alternately in complete astonishment. The first portion of Elinor’s rant he understood, at least, and accordingly he turned to the straight-faced receptionist to demand an explanation. The man awarded him with an exasperating smile and a soon-to-become famous phrase:
“Smile! You’re on Candid Camera.”